Saturday, March 5, 2011

Flaming Out...?

It is official: The Columbus Blue Jackets have to do something unprecedented and freakish to make the Playoffs.

Two missed penalty shots. A player scores the game-tying goal, then takes a foolish double-minor, which results in two power play goals. A goaltender who was chased the night before gets the start, when he probably should have been rested. That was the Blue Jackets-Flames game in a nutshell, a 4-3 loss that spoiled the CBJ debut of Craig Rivet, who opened the scoring.

A few games ago, I noted that the Jackets needed 14 wins in the last 21 games in order to hit the mid- to upper-90s point count they needed to make the Playoffs.

That was when the Jackets had their first regulation loss on the road in nine games, against Nashville (6-0-2 before that game). Four games into a five-game road swing considered by pretty much everyone to be a “make-or-break” stretch for the CBJ’s Playoff hopes, the good guys are 0-3-1.

With 18 games to go… the Jackets still need those 14 wins.

Is it doable? Absolutely. But it’s a Herculean task. Essentially, the Jackets need to pull some New Jersey Devils-type stuff. Of course, the Devils have the greatest goaltender (statistically) of all time in Martin Brodeur, and Ilya Kovalchuk is finally starting to earn the big checks he’s cashing.

So, I guess it comes down to this… if there is such as thing as a “magic number” in hockey, the Blue Jackets’ number is four. Four games for which the Jackets can afford to be less than perfect.

Lose five, and it’s more than likely over.

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